Way back in May, we wrote this post about the scale of borrowing Thurrock Council was undertaking to secure cash for money making investments: This is right off the scale! On Wednesday 8 July, there was an extraordinary meeting of the council, called by the Labour opposition to discuss the borrowing.
This was followed by a full council meeting. This is how the proceedings were covered on Thurrock Nub News: Dramatic night of recriminations, criticism and name-calling as council debates borrowing and ruling Tories ring the changes on scrutiny. If you need any more evidence of how much of a farce Thurrock Council has become, trust us, this report has it all! Read it, then draw your own conclusions. We take our metaphorical hat off to the reporter who had to sit through this shite.
There are a few observations we’d like to make. Firstly, it’s been noted on a number of occasions that the ‘distanced’ meetings Thurrock Council have been holding during the lockdown have been plagued by technical problems. What’s happening is that a few councillors are meeting in the council chamber, physically distanced from each other, while the rest participate via video links that don’t always work. When Cllr. Shane Hebb (Con), the finance portfolio holder, gave his speech outlining the council’s position on their borrowing, parts of it kept cutting out.
So, on Wednesday 8 July, we had a situation where £2 billion of council borrowing was being discussed and councillors participating online couldn’t hear parts of the speech from Cllr. Hebb. That means they were unable to make as informed a contribution to the proceedings as they would have liked. The meeting could and should have been held at the Civic Hall up at Blackshots. The hall there is large enough to accommodate a full council meeting while observing physical distancing procedures. The fact that Thurrock Council didn’t do this and instead, relied upon communications technology they know is flawed, speaks volumes when you start to think about it.
Secondly, once the extraordinary meeting was over and the full council meeting began, the ruling group had their own ‘night of the long knives’ with a number of Labour councillors being removed from committee chairs to be replaced by councillors who could be seen as being more compliant. With our politics, we obviously have no time for the Labour party but we do acknowledge that there have been some Labour councillors who have done their level best to hold Thurrock Council to some kind of account.
Let’s be honest, with the station rebuilding at Stanford-le-Hope and the widening of the A13 between Orsett and the junction with the A1014 both running over budget and behind schedule, the last thing the Tory ruling group want is committee chairs asking difficult questions! When you add the controversial plans to refurbish and expand the civic offices in New Road, Grays and the questionable proposal to replace the level crossing on Grays High Street with an underpass, scrutiny is something the council really needs to be subjected to. On Wednesday 8 July, scrutiny suffered what could well be considered a fatal blow.
It has to be noted that two former ‘Independent’ councillors who defected to the Tories received their rewards. Cllr. Luke Spillman and Cllr. Shane Ralph are now chairs of the housing and health scrutiny committees respectively. These are two posts we wrote earlier on this year about so called ‘Independent’ councillors defecting to the Tory ruling group: Seriously, what is the feckin’ point of voting in local elections? and: Two more ‘independent’ councillors sucked in by the Thurrock Tory Borg. Again, feel free to draw your own conclusions.
To conclude, Thurrock Council, ruling group councillors and senior officers alike, are not fit for purpose. You only have to read through the Thurrock Nub News report about the Wednesday 8 July extraordinary and full meetings of the council for this to be abundantly clear. It’s no wonder that the average turn out for local elections in Thurrock is below the 30% mark. People have no faith in the farce that passes for local democracy. The question is, how much longer will the current situation be tolerated before something gives?